Antibody vs. HIV: A New Hope
Antibodies are meant to identify and neutralize bacteria and viruses. In the fight against HIV, scientists hope to capitalize on this protein in order to cure people suffering from the virus. In a new study at the Rutgers University, researchers are hoping to find a way to prevent the contraction of HIV by using an experimental antibody.
The Experimental Antibody: VRC01
The AMP (Antibody Meditated Prevention) study is a clinical trial that is currently looking to prevent HIV-negative men and transgender individuals from acquiring HIV. The antibody, known as VRC01, was originally found in a man who was able to combat the infection without the use of medication. When scientists discovered this, they worked to recreate the antibody and test its effects on others.
The study targeted men who have sex with other men (homosexual, bisexual, and transgender) for a specific reason. According to the CDC, new diagnoses of HIV in the United States have dropped 19 percent from 2005 to 2014. However, among the Hispanic/Latino and African American community, infections in gay and bisexual men have increased.
Scientists feel like the study will have a positive impact. According to infectious disease specialist and site leader Shobba Swaminathan, “The study is providing ways for Rutgers to effectively partner with and engage the community effectively to ensure a positive impact that will last long after the study is completed.”
The study is testing the antibody on 2,700 HIV-negative men and transgender individuals who have sex with men. The antibody works by preventing the infection from attaching to host CD4 and T Cells. This helps the immune system function properly and fight infections. So far, laboratory tests have shown the antibody to be 90 percent effective.
Swaminathan is optimistic about this study. She calls it “The first study of this magnitude to see whether an antibody infusion can help prevent new HIV infections. If it proves effective, it could potentially pave a way for developing a vaccine for HIV infection.”